American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, India, Kulu

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1966

Kulu. An Army Mountaineering Association party in Kulu was beset by last-minute political difficulties, which are becoming a sad but familiar feature of climbing in India. As a result we had to reduce the size of the party and change objectives from unclimbed 21,000-foot peaks of the upper Parbati valley to the well-trodden Malana and Tos nullahs (valley). Access proved arduous because of the late snowfall on three passes and the mutinous behavior of Tibetan refugee porters we unwisely employed on May 16 for the march to Base Camp in the Malana nullah. On May 29 Robert Langford, Wangyal, Zangbo and I made the first ascent of Ramchukor Peak (17,025 feet) in the east containing wall of the Ali Ratni Tibba East Glacier. We climbed it via the glacier, easy névés and the splendid snow arête of the north ridge. Later C. J. Henty, with Pal- gaon and Zangbo, climbed the northernmost peak of the group, P 16,800 feet. In the Himalayan Journal, 1933, page 83, A.P.F. Hamilton refers to the Sara Umga Pass, which once carried the ancient trade route from Ladakh to Rampur-Bashahr in the Sutlej valley, as being now unused, not less than 16,000 feet high and probably difficult. We reached it on June 3. It was hard to scale the steep north bank of the deeply entrenched west stream of the Tos Glacier to enter the pass from the south, but conditions would alter radically in the post-monsoon season when the pass probably opened each year for a brief period. Its height by aneroid barometer was 16,025 feet. This is possibly the first crossing of the Sara Umga La by mountaineers. Later we made camp for six days on the Chota Shigri Glacier leading north to Phuti Runi on the true left bank of the Chandra river in Lahul (not the Bara Shigri as suggested by Hamilton). From the pass, Langford, Zangbo, Wangyal and I recon- noitered on June 9 the approaches from the south to P 21,165 feet (Pap- sura) and its northwesterly outlier, P 20,300, both prominent unclimbed peaks in the northern end of the Kulu-Bara Shigri divide. We climbed the northernmost of two tributary glaciers, which, though steeper, was less exposed to the ice which fell from the upper shelf of their common névé. The reconnaissance camp was on an 18,013-foot col, overlooking a glacial cwm which drains first north and then west into the lower Chota Shigri Glacier and is surrounded on three sides by precipitous walls. This cwm is unmarked on Survey of India sheets. By traversing the névé at the foot of P 20,300 to the east we reached a good viewpoint on the south ridge of that mountain. Here, at 18,400 feet, we were on a divide between tributary glaciers flowing into the Tos and into the Chota Shigri. We examined the northwest and south ridges and west face of Papsura but could not trace a feasible route from this side. Ali Ratni Tibba (18,013 feet) and its foretop, known respectively by the local hillmen as Paptula and Dramtula, is a formidable mountain resembling the Aiguilles du Dru. To reconnoiter it, Langford, Wangyal and I circumnavigated its base by ascending the Ali Ratni Tibba East Glacier, crossing a 16,000-foot pass southwest of the peak and descending the Ali Ratni Tibba West Glacier, which emerges in the upper Malana nullah just below the snout of the Malana Glacier. Once gained, the southwest ridge offers the best chance of an ascent, but it would have to be reached by a route traversing the steep icefields of the south face, which would require considerable resources and prolonged preparation.

Robert Pettigrew, Alpine Club

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